About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi


"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adios, Puntarenas

Well, the past 2-1/2 weeks have indeed been a marathon of boat projects.  Remember that refrigeration hassle???   We never heard back from literally the one source of parts for the system in THE WORLD, who's now traveling in Portugal.  After waiting for several days, we decided to vacuum out the brand new R22 refrigerant we'd just put in, and order and replace with the original refrigerant, HFC 404a.  Didn't know if it would help, but we thought at least it would have us back to factory spec, so that we could decide whether or not to replace the entire system.  (Even though an ex-factory tech told us that the R22 would work fine as a replacement)  Several days had been spent speculating, deliberating, and navel gazing across 3 continents.  You ask 10 techs what the problem is, and it's a guarantee you'll get at least 11 opinions!!!

Refer unit icing up at the suction valve.....not good!!!
Turned out that this new refrigerant did the trick!!!  Our original thought, that the system was just low on refrigerant, was spot on.  Put back the specified amount of the specified gas, and bingo, bango, the system is running as well as the day it was installed.....no icing up, no 3 hour run times to cool the plates.....life is good, as I sip a coldie this evening!!!  It had been low on refrigerant to begin with, and adding the wrong stuff was not the answer!!!


It's now time for us to leave Puntarenas.  Kind of a strange place, really, with it's gritty fishing port atmosphere interspersed with a fairly minor recreational boat population.  Great spot to get boat work done, though.  With the large commercial fishing fleet, it's easy to find parts and technicians to help with mechanical systems and equipment.  (Don't look for a sailmaker here, though!!)  While here we fixed the refrigeration, welded our exhaust system, replaced the hoses on our propane system, and (hopefully) fixed the controls on a finicky diesel generator.  Not bad.  The people at the Costa Rica Yacht Club have been a terrific help, lending assistance whenever possible to make our stay here as pleasant as possible.  Tomorrow we'll be on our way, continuing south to explore more of this interesting country.

Typical chemical barge passing by our mooring in the estuary.....These guys run day and night.
The biggest outboard motors in the world, with their fuel tank sitting between them!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Puntarenas Blues

We're still here in Puntarenas after 10 days...quite a bit longer than expected.  We got the engine exhaust welded in just a day or so...turned out very well...though I thought the beer can patch was kind of classy. 

But we've noticed our refrigeration system has been working much harder than ever to keep our freezer frozen and our fridge cold.  Much longer run times than normal to freeze the holding plates, and even then, we can't get them as low as before....it just runs and runs trying to get colder without effect...translates to enormous battery drain (the system runs 35 amps / hour) AND shorter hold over time before the system needs to run again.  A bad combination.  Coupled with the cloudy days (lower solar output from our panels), we're now running our generator twice/day, for a total of perhaps 3+ hours.  Not good.  And it means we cannot leave the boat unattended for more than the day, as we need the morning and evening genset run.  This is a major issue for us.

So we've been working with our Seattle refrigeration guru, Mark McBride, who installed the system 8 years ago.  He's a whiz, but it's very difficult to troubleshoot a complex system like this remotely, with many variables affecting the performance.  The first thought was low refrigerant level.  We found a local refrigeration mechanic here in Puntarenas to help, but he didn't have the identical refrigerant as the original (HFC-404a), so we needed to vacuum the system, then introduce a new refrigerant, R-22.

That didn't help, the system is still not working well.  The local mechanic thinks it's the compressor.  Unfortunately the company who made this "state of the art" (note the quotation marks!!!), Glacier Bay, got out of the business a few years ago, and the compressors are proprietary.  And the one person in the world who has the compressors available is traveling in Portugal now!!!  And our Seattle mechanic doesn't think it's the compressor anyway, but at this point, is not sure what the problem is.....   Ughhhhhhhhh.......

It's an old cliche that the definition of "cruising" is "getting to fix your boat in exotic places".  Knock on wood, 'Bravo' has been pretty trouble free for the past 2 years, at least for major problems.  This is the first real stumper we've faced.  Will see what today brings.  If we can't at least come up with the cause of the problem, we may need to limp the system along until we get to Ecuador, with the time to work on it some more.  Might mean......(shudder)......shutting down the freezer.  Hard to enjoy a margueritta without ice!!!!!

As we said, we're now firmly in the Central American rainy season.  And with the rains come the bugs.  We're moored not 15 feet from the mangroves on shore, so the "no-see-ums", or "jejenes" in Spanish have been enjoying 'Bravo's crew for breakfast every morning.  Nasty little buggers, they really are so tiny that you can barely see them.  We have screens on all of our ports and hatches, but they laugh their little bug laughs as they fly right through the screens!  Tried repellent sprays at first.  Sort of worked, but we hate being cooped up in the cabin breathing the stuff all the time.

Adam the mummy, reading his Kindle in bed
So we tried head nets with super fine mesh, and had to wrap up in a sheet to protect all the other parts.  (Note that it's been so HOT that we never even think of covering up w/ a sheet, it blocks the air from our fans...but the jejenes took priority).  Also made it kind of tough to sleep, or whatever, with the stupid head nets on!!!







So we found some mesh netting used for bridal veils at a fabric store, and Cindi sewed up a "tent" for our bunk.  Unfortunately, although its really a fine mesh, these bad boys of the insect world can get through it pretty much as their appetites demand, and the battle ain't over!!!!!

Stay for updates on this continuing saga!!!

In the meantime, must be time to head to the pool and noodle the refrigeration problem some more...holding a coldie.......




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Apple product.....the fryPad

Like any sailing story, this one starts out with "so there we were....."

So there we were aboard 'Bravo' last night, when we were surrounded by a major lightning event.  More than has become our typical evening squall.  Naturally we put all of the portable electronics into the oven for protection (does this makeshift "Faraday Cage" work???  Who knows??, but at least we feel that we're trying something).  Into the oven went 3 laptops, handheld vhf radio, cameras, you get the idea.  Oh yes, and also our iPad, which we've been using since El Salvador as a highly valued addition to our navigation gear.  (running iNavX software with Navionics charts)

This morning dawned as a perfect morning for a fresh banana bread breakfast.  Emptying the oven first, it was easy to miss one piece of black gear in the dark recess of the oven.....yup, the iPad.

Oven lit.  Heating up.......what's that SMELL???  EEEEEEEEK!!!!!  (actually other expletives were bantered about, but this is a family show!!!)

Now, our iPad lives in a heavy duty case, the "Survivor" model by Griffin.  Supposed to protect from dust, water, shock, etc.  Heat was not one of it's advertised barriers.  It looked ugly when we took it out.  A melted, burned hunk of plastic and silicone smoking on the table.  With the iPad still inside!!! 

We quickly peeled off the case, sure that the iPad was "toast".





 But amazingly, after hitting the "on" button, it started right up!!!!!     Displayed a never before seen message: "iPad is too hot to operate.  Allow to cool before using" !!!!!  Now how "cool" is that???!!!  We're out one case, to be sure, but this "fryPad" continues to help us navigate the Central American waters!!!
fryPad "fired" up after removing from the melted case
A new "Survivor" case will soon be on on order.  Thanks Griffin for a nice piece of gear!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Exploring the Gulf of Nicoya

Bravo has been on the move lately, exploring many of the anchorages and little bays and islands in this great cruising area.  Several have been one night stands, others a couple of nights, as we've been enjoying hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking at 'em all.  Here's a brief update of what we've been up to for the past couple of weeks.....

When we last posted, we were in Bahia Ballena, enjoying the quiet, peaceful fishing village.  Everywhere we walked, we'd get a friendly "Buenos" or "Pura Vida" from folks we'd meet.  (typical Costa Rican greetings, we like the "Pura Vida" as a casual "hey dude, how's it going???"  Literally means "a pure life", and is a national expression in this country.  Nice.

Looking out at the village, Bravo in the center

Fresh smoked bacon omelets....a favorite Bravo breakfast!!!
 After breakfast it was time to head out for a jungle hike.  We'd been hearing howler monkeys every evening and morning, for the past several anchorages, but hadn't spotted any yet.  Time for hiking on a mission !!!










Gotta be getting close
Is that a monkey or a swarm of bees?????
 Finally, after an hour or so of hiking, we came upon a family of 6 howlers.  We hung out and watched them for 15 minutes, while they enjoyed breaking off sticks and throwing them at us.  Great fun! 

Since this hike, we've been seeing other monkeys on several hikes.  Never get tired of it!!!
This little guy kept trying to sell us insurance!
 The amount of wildlife of all types in the jungle is amazing.  Seems that everywhere we look on these hikes we see critters of one flavor or another














In places the ground seemed alive with hundreds of these little land crabs scurrying for cover all around us.
Your basic 6 inch spider
The whole community fishes for a living.  Here you can see our nemesis...These are "buoys" and marker "flags" that they use to mark the longlines and nets.  Hard to see at night???  You bet!  (and not much better during the day !!!)  

Building a new net, a big job.
Leaving Bahia Ballena, we headed over to Islas Tortugas, named for the populations of sea turtles that used to frequent the islands.  Now their populations are largely gone, but the islands remain a beautiful, tranquil place to drop the hook, especially after the tour boats out of Puntarenas have left.  That's when we get it to ourselves.  The snorkeling was pretty good, and we enjoyed kayaking around the bay to explore.
Starry moray eel, the first we've seen.
"Dream Boat"......I guess so.....
As we head into little isolated bays, nooks, and crannies, we never know what we'll find.  Here was someone's dream.....judging by the number of surfboards in his quiver, it was obvious that his summer is indeed "Endless" in Costa Rica!!!  Hang ten, dude!

Stopped for a night at Isla San Lucas, the site of an old prison, abandoned in 1992 after over 100 years of notoriety.  It was said that being sentenced here was the equivalent of a death sentence.  The prison was the setting for a book by inmate Jose Leon Sanchez "Island of Lonely Men", later made into a movie.  Declared a cultural heritage site several years ago, we went ashore to explore.  It was an eery walk about, as we checked out the abandoned cells, dorms, and other buildings and spaces.....if walls could talk.

Bats were the only residents we met in the abandoned cells

The jungle quickly reclaims the abandoned buildings
Graffiti from lonely nights in the prison
Telephone booth next to the church....guess you could call collect from either one
Partially restored administration building.
We're now in Puntarenas.  The narrow peninsula is the capital of the Golfo de Nicoya region, and a gritty hub of fishing and some tourism.  Coming in here is a bit of a challenge, as the channel between the peninsula and the mainland varies down to around 10 feet deep at high tide!!!!  (Bravo draws nearly 7 feet).  So we came in yesterday at the morning high tide, and called for a pilot boat to lead us into the yacht club, where we'll be moored for a few days as we try to get the water injection of our exhaust repaired.  The beer can jury rig is working, but it's time we get it properly welded up.
Time for a coldie between rain storms!!!

Hub of fishing and shrimping for the region
Fishing is over for these guys

And this one...right across from our mooring!
The town itself has lots of fishing related industry, so we should be able to get the exhaust welded, no problem.  But other than the moorage area, it's a pretty hardscrabble town, though apparently they are trying to rebuild the tourism infrastructure.  Lots of derelict old fish boats rotting in the shallows, but we're comfortably settled in, tied fore and aft to moorings in the shallow mangroves.  

View over our transom.  Some boats share a short floating dock.  We're just between two moorings.
When the tide is out, we're certainly digging our keel into the mud bottom, but aren't leaning over TOO much!!!  The facilities ashore are nice, and our $22/night fee gets us full use of everything including the pool and internet.  Not bad, and it will work well for our hopefully short stay to get the work done this week.  With luck we'll be heading south in a couple of days.  Plenty more of Costa Rica to explore before we head to Ecuador.

Happy cats in the open fish market!!
The clouds and sunsets in Costa Rica have been spectacular, indeed, especially now that we're firmly in the rainy season.  Cheers!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Into the doldrums...literally!

First, the usual disclaimer...sorry about the lack of photos...this post comes via ham radio, and the bandwidth just allows for text....Will post photos when we next get online with a good internet connection.

We're now in Bahia Ballena ("whale bay"), and while we've not seen any whales recently, the hills around us are ringing with the loud moans and groans of howler monkeys. The howlers' calls coupled with daily thunder are our normal lullabies these days. Love the monkeys. Could do without the thunder!!!

We left Playa del Coco (yes, after visiting our friendly Capitania del Puerto to check out of his geographical reign of influence) and headed to a beautiful, undeveloped bay, Bahia Guacamaya. Nicely protected from the prevailing swell, we dropped the hook in some of the clearest water we've yet encountered. We could clearly see the anchor chain, 25' below. Time to go check out the reefs! After first doing a couple of snorkel recons, we assembled our dive gear and headed in the dinghy over to a rocky island nearby. Dropping down to around 50', we saw a huge assortment of fish, and a school of spotted rays swam around to check us out. As we moved up to around 30', we saw a large turtle ahead, chomping on some coral. We approached slowly, as they've been so skittish on the surface, but he was totally focused on his feed, and didn't seem to worry about us at all. I guess if I was munching on a nice meal of algae covered coral, I wouldn't care about much else either!!! At any rate, we stayed and watched him eat for 2 or 3 minutes, then reached out and pet his rear flippers. He looked over his "shoulder" at us, but just blinked and went back to his coral lunch! Really a special encounter, at least for us (I doubt that he even remembers us today!!!). Having our new dive compressor has been terrific, as we are able to jump in with full tanks whenever it looks promising, and don't have to think, "is this spot worthy of a tank of air??".

After Guacamaya, we did a couple of long days, 55-60 miles, as the central Nicoya Peninsula really has little in the way of good anchorages to explore. We spent one night at Bahia Samara, a pretty little bay, but even with a large reef blocking much of the wave action, a VERY ROLLY anchorage indeed! Tough to sleep, even with a flopper stopper deployed.

Arrived yesterday at Bahia Ballena. A nicely protected bay, without too much development, though we can see a couple of resorts along the north shore (we're anchored in the south corner, by a little fishing village), and we've seen private planes landing on an airstrip behind them. We'll give it a miss!!!

But our anchorage is hardly resort fare. The fishing village reminds us of tiny hamlets in Alaska or B.C. With more monkeys! We went ashore today to explore. The "yacht club", a bar catering to yatistas is closed, and we walked up the road to Tambor, the nearest real town (town is here defined as having 1 grocery store, 1 hardware store, a few houses, a smattering of little eateries, and a couple of tiny hotels). The jungle is all around, though we've not yet had the pleasure to see any of the monkeys we hear in the evenings. Perhaps tomorrow...

The weather, too, reminds us of Alaska, though it's around 90 degrees, 75% humidity in the afternoons. We're now at 9 degrees N. latitude, and we've entered the ITCZ. The ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, for those of you who asked!) is a region of squalls, fluky winds, and heavy overcast skies, what is commonly known as "the doldrums". It's always located near the equator, but it's location is a moving target. Moves north with the sun, in spring and summer months (in the northern hemisphere). Usually it's not seen until, say, 6-7 degrees, but, well, I guess we've lucked out!!! The one good thing about working through it before we head offshore is that we can still fill our fuel tanks when we need to, and the ITCZ makes us thankful that we repowered 'Bravo' before leaving Seattle. We've been motoring a lot, in the 3-5 knot winds. The first layer of our patch on the water injection elbow in the exhaust system has worn through, so I HAD to drink another beer to get more patching material....the things we suffer through to keep our ship's systems in tip top shape...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paperwork Cha-Cha.....legally in Costa Rica at last!!!

Well, this morning we started "deja-vu all over again" (May Day holiday is over)!!! After an hour wait at the side of the road, we hopped bus #1 towards Playa de Coco. It lets us off 3 miles out of town (why???), and we catch a cab (the same friendly one we took yesterday back to Playa Panama!). Meeting with the Capitan del Puerto went well enough, filling out the requisite papers, with multiple carbon copies (this is where carbon paper goes to die!!!) and the usual flurry of stamps. Then the 5 minute walk to Migracion (Immigration) office. We had nearly all of the required paperwork with us in photocopy form for her, except that she wanted the paperwork from our last 5 ports visited. Why in the world would she care where we were over the past several months in Mexico??? No one ever told us about this curve ball! So off to get these copies. Plenty of nice stamps all around, including our passports, which now sport lovely 90 day visas.

Then back to the Port Captain to proudly display our new stamps. He was suitably impressed (NOT!), and sent us to the Liberia airport to meet with the Aduana (customs) officer. After another 1 hour wait for the bus, we head out for the 40 minute drive to the airport. Bus drops us at the turnoff, and we hike the 1+ mile to the terminal. When we ask to speak with the office of the Aduana, no one had a clue what we were talking about.....hmmmmm....didn't they get the email that we were coming??? Guess not...
;-( Finally after 30 minutes of waiting and speaking to several folks, all of whom were honestly trying to help, we were told that the Aduana office is not, in fact, IN the airport, as we'd been told, but NEAR the airport.....back out the road we hiked in on, to the main road.

There Mr. Aduana looks through our paperwork, and asks for his copy of our passports (we had left copies with other 2 offices already). No problem...we came prepared with these! We give him his, and he looks confused....it's not stamped!!!! Seems he wants his copy to have the same stamp as is in our passports. He sends us next door to use a copy machine, but it's broken!!! Things were looking a bit bleak for a few minutes, as he realized that we had no car, and he was not going to accept a copy without the official stamp!!! Finally he fired up his scanner, and scanned and printed to his heart's content.....and EUREKA!!! We're legally in Costa Rica at last!!!

While waiting around in Mr. Aduana's office, we met an interesting chap also there on some business. Martin, a Czech diamond dealer immigrant to the US over 30 years ago, and now calling Costa Rica his home, offered us a ride as far as he was going. We jumped in the truck, and enjoyed the miles rolling by as we learned of his fascinating history, and he likewise enjoyed hearing about the sailing life. Along the way, he said he needed to stop at a little Italian store...just take a few minutes. We walked into a most amazing little grocery...in the middle of Nowhere, Costa Rica. Everything in the store was Italian grocery fare...5 types of gnochi, a whole wall of pastas, sauces, prosciuttos, salamis, cheeses, wines, oils, tomatoes...you get the picture!

Like Martin, we bought our share, and when the spree was over, he graciously gave us a ride all the way out to Bravo, still bobbing at anchor at Playa Panama. A perfect finale to the Paperwork Cha Cha!!! Thanks again, Martin!

But wait...this cha cha ain't quite over!!! Tomorrow we're planning on leaving this area, and will have to SIGN OUT with the same Port Captain that we SIGNED IN with today!!! (as the saying goes, "the more things change, the more they remain the same!!!")

After the requisite bus rides from and to the boat, we'll head south again, exploring some promising dive sites that we've been hearing about! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beach Vibe in Northern Costa Rica

Now sitting in Beach Bums Bar and Grill in Playa de Coco.  Advertised "coldest beer on the beach" and "free wifi".....got all the major food groups covered, so in we go!!




We spent the past 10 days or so enjoying a couple of isolated parks in the north.  First, Bahia St. Elena, where we spent nearly 1 week waiting out the papagayo winds....they do hang around, bringing gusts over 40 knots day and night, in between several minutes of no wind at all. 

A bit frustrating, but we took the opportunity to do a fun hike on shore, up a stream bed to a beautiful waterfall.  Though this is the end of "dry season", there was still a fine deep pool inviting us in for a swim.....poison frogs and fer de lances be damned!!!  The water felt perfect after the hot jungle hike, and the only biters were a couple of tiny red fire ants....yikes, I can see why staking your enemy out on top of an ant hill is a fate commanding such respect!!!  These lil' bastards pack a wallop!!!

After the winds finally died down, we had a beautiful sail around 20 miles south to Islas Murcielagos...."Bat Islands".  Also a national park, and protected from fishing, the underwater critters have a great reputation here.  And it lived up to it's billing.  Day one we did some snorkel recon, and though the clarity and viz weren't quite as good as hoped, the size and diversity of the critters was exceptional.  So we did a fun dive the following day.  Saw sea turtles, large jack crevalles, and some nurse sharks cruising along the bottom.

Yesterday we headed over to Playa Panama in Bahia Culebra.  We still need to clear into the country, and the northernmost spot to do so is the beach town of Playa de Coco.  The beach dinghy landing there can be a bit challenging in the surf, so we're just north at Playa Panama, a 2 bus - 8 mile trip into town!!  Came in to town this morning to do the "paperwork cha cha" with the port capitan, immigration, and customs office (out at the airport 1 hour away), but found the offices are closed today, due to May 1 holiday!!!  So we're enjoying our first day in a town for a couple of weeks, and will play "groundhog day" tomorrow, when we do it all again!!!   For now, better have another Imperial cerveza.....

Fishing report:  been great, if you like to eat skipjack tuna.  We don't.  We just keep reeling them in, and releasing them just as fast.  Yesterday we caught a very small dorado, but released it as well.  Ready for a keeper!!!

Engine report:  We've developed a small hole in our exhaust water injection elbow...a custom welded fitting where cooling water mixes with hot exhaust gases, creating a highly corrosive elixer.  Sure enough, after around 900 hours on the "new" engine, it's developed a hole, leaking a bit of this noxious slurry out onto the hose below.  Yesterday's fix involved gooping a blob of gasket cement around the hole, then wrapping the shebang with a beer can and 3 hose clamps.  Hopefully it'll hold until we can get to a welding shop, perhaps in southern Costa Rica in a month or so.  Not to worry....we've got plenty of beer aboard for raw materials!!!


You might recall our description in the last post of the squalls appearing like moles on the radar screen.....Here's what it looked like from that vantage.  We've just altered course to port, to try to shoot between the two rascals about 10 miles dead ahead.  We were heading to the right, to the right of the upper big blogs, when the one started to appear to it's right....causing us to "reevaluate our options".   Below was a view toward land, about 25 miles away, with a look at the storm cells brewing over Nicaragua, before they came our way.....